Swindle finds sweet spot

WETUMPKA, Ala. – Gerald Swindle found a sweet spot on Lake Jordan Friday during the final day of practice for the Ramada All-Star Semi-Final.

“You should have seen the girl back there on that dock,” Swindle said. “You’ll get more cotton off a Q-Tip than she had in that bathing suit she was wearing.”

The G-Man rarely misses anything on the water, above or below the surface.

For the 12 Bassmaster Elite Series pros competing here, Lake Jordan has a little bit of everything – shallow grass, creek channels, islands, boat docks, underwater humps, deep ledges, brushpiles, current, no current and, yes, women in bikinis.

But the thing this 6,800-acre reservoir on the Coosa River had the most of Friday was heat. It was 91 degrees at 2 p.m. Friday with a heat index of 99 and no breeze. (Officially, there was a four-mile-per-hour wind from the east-southeast.)

Swindle had removed his shirt by the time a camera boat approached him at 10 a.m.

“I ain’t putting no clothes on,” the 42-year-old Warrior, Ala., warned a photographer. “It’s too hot.”

Indeed, every angler approached Friday morning relayed some version of, “It’s hot already.”

But that didn’t seem to slow down the fishing. Swindle landed a 2 ½-pounder from shallow water shortly after his statement about the heat.  Two hours earlier, Jeff Kriet landed a bass about the same size that came from some shallow grass. The 12 All-Star Week competitors were trying to cover all the bases during the final hours of practice. And, yes, there were 12 anglers there, as Aaron Martens completed his road trip from Las Vegas after winning the U.S. Open on Lake Mead Wednesday.

“I haven’t found what makes me happy,” said Kriet, who was one of four anglers voted into this event by the B.A.S.S. fans. “I want to find a couple of big schools.

“I told myself I was going to fish shallow today for a couple of hours, just to keep it honest. I want to fish out. That’s just what I do. Yesterday I fished out all day long. But in the past I’ve gotten beat by guys throwing frogs and stuff.”

Getting beat at Lake Jordan is okay, as long as only seven guys beat you. The top eight finishers in the two-day Ramada All-Star Semi-Final will advance to fish the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship for three days next week on the Alabama River.

There, this survive-and-advance format goes to a one-on-one match play format, where they will be seeded by the order of finish at Lake Jordan – No. 1 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7 on one side of the bracket, and No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5 on the other side. The final will be held Saturday between the two anglers advancing from each side of the bracket, with the winner receiving $100,000.

“Eighth is as good as first,” Kevin VanDam said of the two-day competition on Lake Jordan.

VanDam has won the two previous All-Star events, which were both held on these two bodies of water. In both those events, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race was on the line. That’s not the case this season. There are no AOY points on the line here, and  VanDam has already wrapped up his seventh title. But that $100,000 first prize is plenty of incentive.

Most of the anglers polled think it will take about 10 or 11 pounds a day at Lake Jordan to advance and fish on the Alabama River next week. Based on last year’s results, that appears to be a solid prediction. Russ Lane won the Lake Jordan event in 2010 with a two-day total of 32-3. Martens was second with 32-0 after having 24 ounces in dead fish penalties subtracted from his total.

Although there was no cut to the top eight last year after Jordan, that’s where the closest totals were. Only 10 ounces separated sixth place (Terry Butcher’s 21-14) and 10th place (Skeet Reese’s 21-4). John Crews took eighth place last year with 21-12.

Both Kriet and Terry Scroggins figured they could have weighed about 11 pounds based on their five biggest bass caught during the first day of practice Thursday at Lake Jordan.

“I didn’t talk to anyone that was overly impressed with what they did (Thursday),” Kriet said.

The anglers – Casey Ashley, Ott DeFoe, Edwin Evers, Steve Kennedy, Mike Iaconelli, Davy Hite, VanDam, Kriet, Swindle, Martens, Scroggins and Reese – will fish from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. CT Saturday and Sunday. Weigh-ins will be held at the Wetumpka Civic Center beginning at 5 p.m.